What are Rose Hips?
Rose hips are the seed pods of roses. We don’t often see them anymore, because we tend to prune the faded rose blossoms to encourage more flowers. However if you leave the spent flowers on the rose bush at the end of the season, you should see these small, berry-sized, reddish seed balls, left on tips of the stems. They are actually very ornamental, looking like small crabapples. They are also edible and birds enjoy them, too.
Are Rose Hips Edible?
Both rose hips and rose petals are edible. Roses are in the same family as apples and crabapples, so the resemblance of their fruits is not purely coincidental. Rose hips also have a bit of the tartness of crabapples, and are a great source of vitamin C.
All roses should produce hips, although rugosa roses are said to have the best tasting hips. These are also generally the largest and most abundant.
Caution: Don’t use rose hips from plants that have been treated with a pesticide that is not labeled for use on edibles.
Harvesting Rose Hips
The best time to harvest your rose hips is after the first frost. Frost helps sweeten the flavor. They should still be firm and have good color. Leave the shriveled or dried hips for the birds to enjoy.
Waiting until after a frost is also good for the plant, since cutting the hips before frost could encourage the rose to send out new growth which would be killed back at the next frost.
How to Prepare Rose Hips
You can use whole, fresh rose hips, but the seeds inside have an irritating, hairy covering, so it is recommended you remove them prior to eating.
Trim off the stem and blossom ends. Hold the hip securely and slice it in half, then remove the inner seeds. You can do all of this trimming with a pair of scissors, if the hips are too small to use a knife on.
Now rinse off the hips and prepare as you choose. Here are a few suggestions, below.
What Can I Use Rose Hips For?
Rose Hip Tea: You can use fresh or dried rose hips, for a simple rose hips tea. You’ll need about twice as many hips, if using fresh. For fresh rose hip tea, steep 4 - 8 hips in a cup of boiling water for about 10 - 15 minutes.
Shortcut: If you want to try out the flavor of rose hips, but don't have any in your garden or you aren't up to all the seeding and prep work, rose hip tea is widely available in stores.
Cooking Tip: Don't use aluminum pans or utensils that could discolor the hips. Aluminum also destroys their vitamin C. Stainless steel is fine.